April 16, 2020

Evaluating Low-code Platforms for scalability - Wavemaker

The enterprise application market is expected to grow to 250 billion USD by 2024. This is hardly surprising given enterprises are developing more applications than ever before. As enterprises plan to deliver more enterprise applications, pressures of speed-to-market and the lack of talent available necessitates organizations to look for better and smarter alternatives. The application development platform is one such solution. Simply put, a low-code platform is a set of tools that enable application teams to plan, design, develop, test, and deploy applications — consistently and cost-efficiently.

Low-code is the next stage in the evolution of app development platforms. It enables rapid application development with GUIs for programming, pre-fabs and templates for replicability, and CI/CD integration for automated deployments. An important transformation that low-code brings to the application development landscape is the empowering of citizen developers and business users to build enterprise-quality applications, even without specialized programming skills. Gartner finds that "By 2024, low-code application development will be responsible for more than 65 percent of application development activity."

As enterprise applications are large, complex, and come under immense compliance scrutiny, IT leaders worry about the scalability of such platforms, and the applications they build.

Here's how low-code platforms are poised to deliver enterprise scalability

Low-code platforms are poised to deliver both dev-time and run-time scalability. Dev-time scalability is the ability of a low-code platform to scale in line with the development needs of your organizations. It should enable multiple developers, across teams/geographies, programming several use cases, for loosely connected applications, across web, mobile and other platforms.

If you're an application development leader, use the following checklist to assess if your low-code platform offers you dev-time scalability.

  • How easy is it to onboard new developers to the platform?
  • How well would it handle multiple teams working on multiple applications at the same time? Does it allow you to give role-based access?
  • How comfortable is it for both citizen developers and professional programmers to collaborate on the platform?
  • Can you add custom code to the application developed by the low-code platform?
  • How convenient is it to do end-to-end application development — from research / planning to deployment and maintenance?
  • Does it offer organization-wide collaboration tools and templates to quickly replicate pre-built elements across teams?
  • Can it develop on a wide range of development technologies/languages?
  • Does it integrate and communicate well with your existing tools?

Run-time scalability is the ability of the applications developed using low-code platforms to deliver a seamless user experience in production at scale. This means that the application needs to be able to handle large volumes of users, perform complex operations, at high standards of performance and reliability. There is no reason a low-code platform can not do this. John Rymer, Forrester’s principal analyst serving application development & delivery professionals, identifies real-world experiences of developers who have used low-code platforms for applications like full-scale ERP or route 1.5 million orders per day.

If you're the operations lead of an enterprise application, evaluate your new low-code platform for rum-time scalability using the following metrics.

  • Does it enable rapid deployment with containerization?
  • Does it automate tasks for faster deployment?
  • Can you deploy to any cloud, multi-cloud, hybrid-cloud, or on-prem environments?
  • Does it integrate with your CI/CD pipeline for automated deployments?
  • Can your developers deploy applications on-demand independently? Does your low-code platform offer self-service DevOps?

If the answer to the above questions is yes, you might rest assured that it offers runtime scalability. But remember that the role of the low-code platform in application scalability is limited.

To make your application truly scalable, you need to design your architecture for scale: Make sure that there is no single point of failure, build for a 10x use case, enable monitoring and maintainability, and gain visibility of scalability costs as well. If scalability is an important concern for your enterprise application — as it should be — then your best bet is to create internal processes and architecture design that enable such scale and combine them with a low-code platform that would support it.

Originally published in CIOReviewIndia